Ata Truck Tonnage May Index

ATA's Truck Tonnage Index down 9.6% from May 2019

June 24, 2020
Compared to same time last year, May 2020 SA index posted largest year-over-year decline since 2009

The American Trucking Association’s advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For Hire Truck Tonnage Index shrank 1% in May after falling 10.3% in April. In May, the index equaled 106.1 compared with 107.2 in April.

“While tonnage fell in May, even though other economic indicators like retail sales and housing starts rose, I’m not overly concerned,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “First, while down 10% sequentially in April, truck tonnage did not fall as far as other economic indicators that month. This means that any rebound is tougher since tonnage didn’t fall substantially to begin with. Second, there are indications that freight continues to improve as more and more states and localities lift lockdown restrictions.”

April’s drop was revised up to -10.3% from the 12.2% decline ATA reported in a May 19 press release.

Compared with May 2019, the SA index contracted 9.6%, the largest year-over-year decline since 2009 during the depths of the Great Recession, although the index is not falling quite as much as during that economic downturn. For example, in April 2009, the index was off 14% from a year earlier. The latest drop was preceded by a 9.4% year-over-year drop in April. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2019, tonnage is down 2.6%.

“While the overall economy will likely take more than a year to recover, assuming the pandemic doesn’t spike again, the trucking industry could recover back to pre-COVID-19 levels before many other industries because it hasn’t fallen as much,” Costello said. “As retail sales improve and housing starts recover, that will help trucking. The risk for trucking is that the virus surges again and places start to shut down again.”

The not-seasonally-adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 109.8 in May, 2.8% above the April level of 106.9.